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Happy Birthday to The Greatest!

By Sports WKTV

UTICA (WKTV) – Happy 70th Birthday to Muhammad Ali. Although self-proclaimed, his moniker is rarely debated…”The Greatest”. Ali has been called the most recognized man on the planet, he is a phenomenal athlete, poet, civil rights and social issues leader, philanthropist and handicapped American.

His record is remarkable, 56 win and 5 losses, only the last two of those defeats were not avenged in the ring. He was an Olympic Gold Medal winner as a Light Heavyweight at the 1960 games in Rome. Four years later he became the youngest Heavyweight Champion when he upset title holder Sonny Liston with an 8th round TKO. The next month, Cassius Clay converted to the Islamic religion and took the name Muhammad Ali.

After legal troubles, related to his refusal on religious grounds to serve in Viet Nam, Ali resumed his unbeaten boxing career…without the title. That set up the “Fight of the Century”, a 1971 bout against champion Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden. It was the first of three bouts against Frazier that would be written into boxing history. Two unbeaten fighters with legitimate claims to the heavyweight belt, Frazier dropped Ali with a left hook in the 15th round and won the unanimous decision.

Ali became only the second man in history to win the title twice when he upset George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle”. He became the first man to win the title three times when he avenged his loss to Leon Spinks in 1978.

Five times, Muhammad Ali was named Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine. Six times he was a combatant in the Fight of the Year by The Ring magazine. Both of those accomplishments are records for that publication. Ali’s third fight with Frazier, the “Thrilla in Manila” is regarded by many as the greatest Heavyweight Championship fight in history.

Three years after his retirement from boxing, doctors diagnosed Ali with Parkinson’s Syndrome, which has dramatically limited his speech and movement. Despite this, Ali has been active on a world stage. In 1991, in the early stages of what would become the Gulf War, Ali went to Iraq to help secure the release of 15 Americans taken hostage in Kuwait.

In 1999, Sports Illustrated named him the Athlete of the Century. In 1996, he lit the Olympic torch at the games in Atlanta. And today, Ali turns 70.

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